Monday, September 11, 2006

Being Dum rather, mediocre.

Last weekend my graduate program had their annual welcome back picnic. In between gabbing with new students, I asked one of my friends how she was awarded her research assistantship with my favorite professor. I knew from my roommate (who is also an RA) that before coming to University, she got a call out of the blue asking her if she wanted this paid on-campus position. I wanted to know what this "out of the blue" phone call was based on.

"Oh," she said, nonchalantly, "On GPA."
"What, like, undergrad GPA?"
"Um, yeah."
"It's based entirely on GPA?"
"Yep," she said, seeming uncomfortable.
"That's ridiculous," I said, "I had a 3.74 GPA in undergrad, why didn't I get a call?
"Did you have a 4.0?"
"A 3.9? You had a 3.9 in college!?"

So I asked my other two close friends, who are, incidentally also RAs in my program. They both had 3.9's as well. Well, my roommate added that she actually had a 3.98.

I gotta say, I was a little taken a back. I mean, I'm no genius, but I always operated under the assumption that I was no flub either. This encounter just further underscores the overall feeling of mediocrity I sometimes have about my academic life. I mean, I have a genuine love of learning, but I've always known that if I had to chose between being a brainiac or having a well-rounded life, that I would choose the latter.

I've rationalized in my own mind how this can be a good thing. For example, instead of being smart or having gone to the right school, I'm personable, sociable. I've often felt that what I lack in brains, I can make up for in quickness of wit and creativity of delivery. Or bluffing. [Never underestimate the power of a good bluff]. This gets you surprisingly far, and is a powerful tool in the right situation. In fact, I'm the poster child for cumulative applications - while I do semi-respectfully on the academic portion, I usually rock the essay or the interview. I suspect I've squeaked by on these talents many time.

However, while all this makes me good party fun, it doesn't necessarily demand respect. I've often felt like I'm playing a game whose rules I don't even understand (but in my mind, can be made up!). Sometimes, people underestimate me. Sometimes, this gives me an out to do a shitty job [when in fact, I should be called on it].

I have reflected many times on how different my graduate career would've been if only I'd had one of those RA positions. I could've been on campus more. I would've felt more connected to the community. I would've been "in" on campus activities, instead of just showing up in the evenings and racing to class exhausted from a full day of work.

I wouldn't have so much debt hanging over my head.

And while, deep down, I still know I'm a good person and that there is a place in life for me (hey, someone has to be middle management), I'm still a little disappointed at not being "The Best."

I think that comes from growing up in America. In Japan, they tell students to be part of the status quo. You expect to grow up and become a salaryman or an office lady (until you get married), not Prime Minister, or an astronaut, a neurobiologist or Steve Irwin. So when one does become mediocre (and chances are, they will), they're not terribily dissappointed that they didn't turn out to be Prime Minister/astronaut/neurobiologist/Steve Irwin (RIP, Steve!).

Perhaps we need more of that here. Or perhaps not.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: the strive for excellence is one thing.

The acceptance of being who you are is another all together.

M is for mediocre,


Rose Connors said...


If you're dum, I'm an idiot. My father was constantly berating me because the grades on my report card were so much lower than my achievement test scores. I choose life over brainiac, too.


nate-nate-bo-bate said...

I really hate to be the first one to point this out to you, Meredith, but you misspelled "dumb" on the title to this post. You forgot the "b" at the end. Maybe if you had a 3.98 GPA, you might have caught that sort of thing, but seeing as you have an obviously inferior 3.74, it's totally understandable that you missed it. But good for you for
trying. Good for you!

Wait...I just realized that I only had a 3.35 GPA. Does that mean that I'm technically retarded? Oh shit, and I got it at a State school, of all places! Am I doomed to a life in the janitorial arts?

I wonder what Steve Irwin's cumulative GPA was?

emira said...

GPA means shit, especially GPA from undergrad and if American University uses GPA to award people RA-ships than they are full of shit. As we all know GPA is subjective and completely dependent on what one studies, where they went and how much they kissed their professors asses. You know that it's different for everyone everywhere and it doesn't affect how successful or good at RA-ing one will be. My God, it's the same with stupid GRE and other standardized tests. These types of measurements don't predict ones success or their abilities, so if you think that 3.98 makes a person smarter or somehow better than mediocre than you really don't know shit. I have met so many 3.98 in my grad program and now they are all gone, couldn't even finish their Masters least of all Ph.D. And here I am (who had less then 3.74 I think) and I will fucking get done if it kills me. So anyone with a higher GPA can kiss my beautiful bosnian ass. As we all know GPA does not equate abilities or strength to get through grad school, or really anything else in life. Your 3.74 is a 4.0 in my eyes.

Megan said...

If you turn an M upside down, you get a W, and that stands for well-adjusted.

I would again like to turn your attention towads a little thing called the Imposter Syndrome. You must be a fake, everyone else is better, it's only a matter of time until they find out... except it's not true. There will always be different levels of ability, and you do a good job with what you've got.

As a wise man said, you're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you. And I'm one of them.

Mtanga said...

If I had a nickel for every time you diagnosed me with the imposter syndrome...

Are you sure you have the right person???


Sinister Minister said...

So, I graduated from college the same year Peyton Manning did and we had identical GPA's. I declared I would wait until I found out how much he made a year and then I would demand the same amount. Same age, same education, same pay, right?
As they say in Minnesota, not so much. I'm still waiting though. (I wonder what ever happened to Peyton Manning?)